November 15, 2007
Last Night's Wines

In The Bee's Taste section yesterday, I vowed to serve just two wines at this year's Thanksgiving dinner, a riesling for the white, a pinot noir for the red. My resolve is weakening, especially after tasting two new zinfandels last night. Zinfandel long has been my first choice with turkey, stuffing and the like, even if I do believe riesling and pinot noir are more adaptable companions at the table.

Last night's zinfandels, poured with a vegetarian pizza, were far different stylistically, even though they were from the same producer, Montevina Winery in Amador County's Shenandoah Valley. "Our single-vineyard zinfandels are a paradox and a pleasure," says Montevina winemaker Chris Leamy in a press release with the wines. "They are varietally true to zinfandel, yet distinctive from each other. Clonal selections, vine-age, field blending, unique micro-climates and terroir produce fruit with such interesting, distinctive, delicious character I cannot be physically forced to blend them away. This makes my job a little less interesting, but I have plenty to do." (I usually don't like to quote so extensively from a press release, but these comments are unusually enlightening and to the point.)

Of the two, the Montevina 2005 Terra d'Oro SHR Field Blend Amador County Zinfandel ($30) was my favorite. It's a throwback to the old California practice of planting different grape varieties in the same field, then picking and fermenting the grapes together rather than separately. In this case, the vineyard and the wine is 80 percent zinfandel, 13 percent petite sirah, and 7 percent barbera. The result is an unsually floral zinfandel, but the smell of raspberries and blackberries also is forthright. On the palate, fresh cherry as well as berry flavors come across brightly. It's a graceful zinfandel, with readily tolerable tannins and a refreshing finish. The alcohol is a reasonable 14.5 percent.

The Montevina 2005 Terra d'Oro Home Vineyard Amador County Zinfandel ($30) is a far different and much bigger cat. It's also a throwback, not to the days of field blending but to the jammy, spicy, oaky and sweet style of Shenandoah Valley zinfandel. It's all about fully ripe fruit in which the summer sun still blazes. A lot is going on in this wine, including suggestions of chocolate, cinnamon and walnuts seasoning its core of jammy red fruits. The alcohol is a warm 15 percent.

Either would grace the Thanksgiving table, and, yes, I'm wavering.

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